In August 2021 we received a $2M gift from the High Meadows Fund to seed the creation of a Land Sovereignty Fund. The intent was to begin to address the historical harms that have shaped current-day racial and ethnic disparities in land access and ownership. Our commitment, made at the time of the grant, was to move these funds into the hands of BIPOC-led (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color) organizations.

What is land sovereignty?

For us, land sovereignty includes access to, and ownership of, land. It is also a term that goes beyond these ideas to stress a fundamental belonging to the land. This sense of belonging and agency is the opposite of colonization, slavery, and racism that has often underpinned this country’s practices around land. We use ‘land sovereignty’ to recognize past harms and signal an intent to foster justice, equity, and inclusion.

Over the past year, we have been speaking with Black-led land organizations, Indigenous leaders, and other people of color. Our approach has been to listen, learn, and strengthen relationships with the goal of moving forward, together, at the speed of trust. Some people outside of these conversations have rightly asked, what is happening now? And when can we expect to hear more?

Update on our process

As a first next step, we have hired a consulting team, Braided Wisdom, to help build a collaborative decision-making process for the new fund. Braided Wisdom is a BIPOC-led organization with deep experience in cross-cultural communication and with connections to Vermont. This process will include many of the organizations referenced above, and could take up to one year to complete. Our first grants could be announced in the first half of 2023.

We appreciate your partnership and are grateful for the work happening in many corners of our state to advance justice and equity. We welcome your questions and feedback along the way, and invite you to contact Jessie Estes for more information.